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Cooling Flames Of Vaccine/Autism Controversy, Dr. Healy Urges More Studies

Cooling Flames Of Vaccine/Autism Controversy, Dr. Healy Urges More Studies

It can be hard to parent outside of the mainstream; always eating organic foods, replacing plastic with wood and enamel, and convincing childcare providers that cloth diapers really aren’t that much harder to use. Yet it’s even harder to talk about vaccines. That’s why I loved former AP reporter Dan Olmsted’s article nominating Dr. Bernadine Healy as person of the year.

For years, I’ve been skeptical of claims that vaccines are perfectly safe for everyone. If we lack hard scientific studies that compare vaccinated with unvaccinated kids, how can we really know? I’m not a doctor, just an extremely health-conscious parent obsessed with medical research; I lack the credentials needed to persuade anyone except myself. And with the horrible polarized fight over vaccine these days, I sometimes doubt my instincts and feel safest keeping my views private. Which is why Dr. Healy rocks.

She’s not just an individual doctor expressing concerns, but a Member of the Institute of Medicine, the former head of the Red Cross. And, most importantly, she is the former head of the National Institute of Health–the agency spending money for research into the causes, treatments, and cures of particular diseases.

She says health officials have been too quick to dismiss the vaccine-autism hypothesis, and notes that no major studies have focused on the kids who developed symptoms of autism within weeks of the vaccines. She thinks we should study them! (Strange that this is such a novel concep …) Her comments don’t address all my concerns–like the possible links of vaccines with other autoimmune disorders, (which medical research seems to indicate cannot be ruled out, but has yet to be control-studied in vulnerable sub-populations). But, her more balanced viewpoint gives me hope that we’re moving beyond the knee-jerk dismissal of vaccine skeptics.

Questioning vaccines is such a tricky thing–something parents often feel they cannot really do in public. Will people wonder if your kids are properly vaccinated? Will parents kick your child out of playgroup if they aren’t? With this heated vaccine-autism debate fueled by fear tactics in the mainstream medical community (Chickenpox a deadly disease? Doesn’t it make you wonder?), the polarization makes it worse.

So, when a well-respected doctor, previous head of the NIH, makes public statements to this effect, those of us who question the “trustworthy” word of Merck and company while they lobby to mandate their newest vaccines, can feel a bit of support.

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11:02PM PST on Jan 1, 2009

excellent hilary keep them coming rocky racoon

5:40PM PST on Dec 30, 2008

Excellent post, Hilary. Vaccines are a tough issue for parents grapple with, and the best thing they can do is to research the pros and cons before making a decision -- regardless of what that decision is in the end. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and I look forward to more of your thoughtful posts on this in the future.

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